Juan-José López Burniol, 14 October 2023
Image : AFP
It is not true; I have been deluding myself for many years. Spain’s big problem is not the territorial problem, that is to say, the problem of how the historical nationalities recognised by the Constitution fit into Spain (what a word!). And I say that the territorial problem is not Spain’s great problem because its transcendence would automatically become a major and stubborn political conflict, but one that could be tackled with the will to reach agreement, if the two major Spanish parties were to proceed together in their approach and in the adoption of measures aimed at channelling it democratically. This would certainly lead to the legal articulation of the Spanish nation (nation of nations) as a federal state. To sum up: Spain’s great problem lies in the substantial divergence between left and right on the territorial question.
Is this disparity, which goes back more than a century, the result of the different intellectual and political perceptions that right and left have of the demands of the nationalists? The answer, leaving aside the extreme positions on the right and left, can be summed up as follows: the difference is not marked, at each historical moment, by conceptual and political reasons, but by the need of the right or the left to complete their respective parliamentary majorities, buying their votes from the nationalist parties in exchange for concessions of powers and finances.
Without prejudice to the fact that the right, always linked to Recesvinto (a Hispanic Visigoth king), roars offended at any hint of plurality that sully the sacred unity of a homeland instrumentalised by some at their service; while the left, overcome with self-granted moral superiority and prey to a plurinational fervour whipped up by academic dengues, abominates the Spanish nation as if it were the last refuge of vagrants and thugs. But it’s all a joke: the right and the left are going for what they are going for, their own thing: power. Apart from the many personal exceptions that need to be saved, the parties today are organic caciques, that is, the bureaucratic concretisation (so sad) of a political class that has turned service into a profession, dedication into a livelihood and vocation into necessity.
Can you imagine, reader, what would happen in Spain if, despite continuing to maintain their substantial differences on the major issues raised by a time of change like the present (the “things”, as Ortega used to say), the right and the left were unanimous in preserving and defending the regulatory frameworks and institutional instruments that form the backbone of the State? If this were the case, the territorial problem would have its importance and would have to be tackled with rigour, but without turning it into an essential question of being or not being, or into a motive for the marketing of powers. I am not saying that the territorial issue is a “paper tiger”, but I do argue that it would be reduced to its fair limits, far from being the crucial issue on which Spain’s destiny hangs.
What if right and left were at one in defending the normative frameworks that form the backbone of the State?
Are the leaders of the Socialist Party and the Popular Party aware of this fatal dysfunction? I fear that, immersed in the fratricidal struggle in which they are immersed, we all know for what reasons, most of them are not at all receptive to reflections like this. But since little can be expected of them, they can at least be asked not to disguise the emptiness and selfishness of their respective positions with big words: not to invoke the homeland they prostitute, the justice they mock, the solidarity they violate and the peace they disturb.
Manuel Azaña Díaz, now that he had come to his senses, wrote: “When one is at the head of a great people (…), the most frivolous soul is covered with gravity thinking of the historical fruitfulness of its successes and mistakes”. Of course, Azaña was driven by one of the passions that formed the backbone of his life and his intellectual and political personality: Spain. A word that some abuse and others avoid. Two equals for today.